Questions still surround possible SIJHL expansion

A group from Schreiber and Terrace Bay has expressed interest in joining the Superior International Junior Hockey League.
“So far it looks pretty good,” Bill MacLaurin, owner of the K&A Golden Hawks, said Monday.
While he would not divulge the names of the interested parties, he noted there are investors from both areas, with the team to be based out of Schreiber.
MacLaurin noted a meeting had been scheduled for Monday night with the other groups that have ice time in the 750-seat Schreiber Recreation Complex, including local minor hockey teams and the Aguasabon River Rats (a Junior ‘B’ team), to make sure there were no objections to an SIJHL team coming to town.
It seems people in Schreiber, a town of 1,500 about two hours east of Thunder Bay, have heard about the possibility.
“The talks have been going on just pretty recently,” noted Lorraine Huard, a Schreiber councillor for the past 15 years. “Nothing is a go yet, it’s strictly in talks. There has been no commitment of any kind.”
“Schreiber is a hockey town and it has always received good support, and they figure they can draw people from Nipigon, Terrace Bay, and Marathon. We like our hockey,” added Huard, who said she would support an SIJHL team as long as it didn’t conflict with the schedules of other teams at the rec complex, which is owned by the township.
Schreiber’s council met Tuesday night, but no one had approached clerk Lila Cresswell to be put on the agenda about bringing an SIJHL team to the community.
“It’s very interesting what you’re saying because no one has approached council to be on the agenda, and that’s quite an important thing,” Cresswell had said Monday afternoon.
That also was the case as of Tuesday afternoon.
“So they may have some informal conversations with the councillors,” Cresswell noted. “I had heard the rumours about it, but nothing firm. Obviously, we would like to know more about them so we could know what their intentions are.”
Schreiber Mayor Don McArthur could not be reached for comment as he was in Thunder Bay on business.
The SIJHL had planned to hold its first-ever draft last Wednesday evening in Thunder Bay, but it was postponed on word a group was interested in joining the league.
“I do not know where they are from. I have not met them,” SIJHL vice-president Ron Whitehead had said last Thursday. “Bill MacLaurin brought the news to the [draft] meeting. He was in contact with whoever the group is and he obviously felt it was serious enough to ask us to delay the draft.” Whitehead was still in the dark when contacted Friday morning. “I have not been informed of anything yet,” he remarked.
“I don’t have anything to report, and I don’t want to say anything prematurely because I don’t want to start saying something and then see nothing happen,” noted MacLaurin.
At first, there was speculation the interested group was from either Atikokan, Grand Marais, or Two Harbors (the latter two located in Minnesota between Thunder Bay and Duluth).
“I hope there is a team that would be viable, but as far as Atikokan, I don’t that’s a viable place to support a Junior ‘A’ franchise,” Borderland Thunder general manager Brent Tookenay had noted last week.
The Thunder, which formally announced last week it would not ice a team this coming season, always has said it would consider staying with the SIJHL if it were to expand. But it appears Tookenay is taking a wait-and-see attitude with this latest news.
“Well, that’s pretty much par for the course of the league. That’s the way it’s been run,” he remarked. “You’re going ahead with the draft, and somebody comes in five minutes before it starts and says they want in the league.
“Well, why would they do that?” he asked.
In fact, Tookenay said he was skeptical of the whole thing. “I don’t know how serious they [the expansion group] are about it, but they [the SIJHL] better take a long hard look at what the situation is,” he warned.
But would the SIJHL welcome the Thunder back?
“Oh yeah,” said MacLaurin. “I don’t even think they’ve sent their letter into Hockey Northwestern Ontario declaring that they’ve left the league.”
While that’s true, Tookenay said, “As far as we’re concerned, the SIJHL can tell the HNO what’s going on. But if they need a letter, then we would put one through.”
Meanwhile, the SIJHL, which initially rescheduled its draft for this past Monday, has postponed it again until tonight (Wednesday) because of “positive news” over the weekend.
“Bill [MacLaurin] asked us to delay tonight’s meeting,” Whitehead noted Monday morning. “So in other words, it [talk of expansion] is ongoing and they haven’t walked away.”
The only question now is will they step in?